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Stewart Island (New Zealand)


Last modified: 2014-07-05 by ian macdonald
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[ Stewart Island flag ] image by Sam Sampson, contributed by Chrystian Kretowicz, 23 Mar 2008

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I have had a response to my enquiry about the flag of “independent” Stewart Island, the third largest, southern, island of New Zealand. The curator of the Rakiura Museum ("Rakiura" being the Maori name of Stewart Island) has sent me a newspaper cutting about a Declaration of Independence on 31 July 1970. This was part of a fundraising effort to raise NZ$6,000 for a new swimming pool for the Island’s school, by selling 50 cent passports for the newly independent island.

The cutting is accompanied by a black and white photograph of the “independence” ceremony, which includes a member of the IRA (Independent Rakiura Army) holding the new republic’s flag. The flag is described as being blue, green, red and yellow. It is not very clear in the photo, but would seem to be a semicircular “rising sun” in the top 2 quarters, red and yellow, over a green island in a blue sea in the lower 2 quarters. The shape of the island and sea is not clear.

Rakiura means "glowing skies", said to refer to the long twilight experienced at high southern latitudes, or else to the glowing sunsets experienced there. Presumably this inspired the flag’s symbolism (my guess entirely).

The article notes that the fund-raising drive would end (after various planned events) on 28 August [1970] with a radio quiz. I can find no evidence that the flag was used after this promotion. Stewart Island remains an integral part of New Zealand, at least until the next time the school baths need upgrading!

Stuart Park, 17 October 1997

The image was obtained from Sam Sampson,self-appointed beer-loving historian and tour-guide of Rakiura, who did run a very funny (now defunct) website about the island he has loved immensely. He was a participant of the raucous event when the flag of the "Independent Rakiura Army" was unfurled in 1970 in Oban's bar.

The designer of the flag was Peter Goomes, who as recently as 2005 served as a local Councilor of Stewart Island, and in whose possession is the original flag of "Independent" Rakiura.

Chrystian Kretowicz, 23 March 2008